Sometime around lunchtime Tuesday in York, the owner of a kitten known as Skibbles was trying to load him into a cardboard box for a trip to the SPCA.

The owner had three cats and, according to her neighbors, said they were too much and she was getting rid of them.

The York County SPCA, of course, is overrun with cats, which didn't bode well for Skibbles' future.

Perhaps Skibbles sensed that. Or perhaps he was doing just what cats do when you try to put them in a box. Skibbles freaked, neighbors said, and bolted up a pine tree in the back yard.

And that's where the tabby remained Friday morning, about 30 feet up a tree in the alley behind the 400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.

"We thought it would come down. It didn't," said Angel Mendoza, who could see the cat from the deck to the rear of his second-floor apartment. "We put food at the bottom of the tree, but it didn't come down."

You could hear Skibbles before you could see him, his incessant meowing helping pinpoint his location in the dense tree branches. He could move around. But, apparently, he could not climb down.

Mendoza said he tried to find someone to rescue the cat, to no avail. He called 911. The dispatcher recommended he call the SPCA. The SPCA recommended he call 911, he said.

The fire department did check it out. Chief Steve Buffington said contrary to public perception, the department does still attempt to rescue treed cats, evaluating each situation on its own merits.

In this case, he said, the alley was too narrow to accommodate a ladder truck and electrical wires would make putting up a free-standing ladder hazardous.

"We aren't heartless," said Buffington, who, in his years with the department, has rescued his share of cats. "We do care. But in our officer's judgment, in this case, it wasn't safe to try a rescue."

One neighbor tried throwing a rope over a nearby branch, hoping to pulley a laundry basket containing cat food next to Skibbles to affect a rescue. But she couldn't throw the rope high enough.

Even Tuesday night's storm couldn't drive Skibbles out.

The cat had been a cause of concern for the entire block. Mandy Glisan, who lives in the first floor of Mendoza's building, said neighbors went out at night with flashlights to keep Skibbles company and to try to lure him down.

"The poor thing keeps meowing," she said.

Then, Friday afternoon, a local tree trimmer, called by another neighbor, climbed up the tree and rescued Skibbles. Mendoza did not know whether Skibbles had been shipped off to the SPCA.

Of course, left to his own devices, Skibbles could have eventually climbed down on his own. As one York County police officer once quipped, you don't see a lot of cat skeletons in trees. or 771-2046.

Firefighters and cats

Whether area fire departments will rescue cats in trees depends on the circumstances, according to some local chiefs.

First they want to evaluate the situation and make sure it can be done safely.

"We're not going to risk a human life to rescue a pet," said David Nichols, chief of the West Manchester Township Fire Department and a cat owner.

Most departments will respond to a call for a cat stuck in a tree, but that doesn't mean firefighters will perform the rescue.

"We usually don't unless the animal is in some danger," said Dover Township firefighter Chris Wertz, who added that the department evaluates situations on a case-by-case basis.

Nichols said his department has performed numerous animal rescues, from cats in trees to baby ducks caught in storm drains. As far as treed cats are concerned: "It's one of the things that we try to do when we can. But usually it works itself out, and the cat comes down on its own when it gets hungry."